“This is a true story,” says the joke-heavy trailer for Paramount’s action comedy “Pain & Gain,” whose cast list includes Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong, and Rob Corddry. But the families of the Sun Gym Gang’s real-life torture and murder victims aren’t laughing. In the film directed by Michael Bay, Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson portray body builders turned vigilante muscle men, who kidnap a bad guy and make off with his fortune.
“Victor Kershaw is a criminal prick who deserves bad stuff to happen to him,” says Wahlberg’s character, Daniel Lugo, in the trailer. Kershaw is supposed to be the fictional version of Marc Schiller, a Miami businessman who was kidnapped tortured, and nearly murdered by the Sun Gym Gang. According to the Associated Press, Schiller was kept in a warehouse for a month and tortured with sleep deprivation, water boarding, lighters and a Taser until he signed millions of dollars and his home over to Lugo and company, then made his wife and children move to Columbia.
Schiller, who was 34-years-old at the time of the crimes, calls himself a married homebody and says the character depicted in the film is nothing like him.
Lugo and his pals moved into Schiller’s home and attempted to kill him by strapping him into a vehicle, setting it ablaze, and crashing it into a pole. Schiller staggered out of the vehicle, so the men ran him over. When he awoke in a hospital, no on believed his story so he hired an investigator to help him bring the men to justice.
Meanwhile, Lugo and his Gang attempted to make phone sex entrepreneur Frank Griga their next victim, but he fought back. The men beat him to death, murdered his girlfriend, Krisztina Furton, and dismembered their bodies in the same warehouse where they held Schiller. The Sun Gym goons then scattered the victims’ body parts around South Florida. The red band trailer for “Pain & Gain” playfully shows a dog running around a mansion with a severed toe in its mouth.
“You are talking about real people. And in this particular case, especially when you’re talking about the murder victims, these were innocent victims,” says retired Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Felix Jimenez, who helped investigate the crimes in the 1990s. A relative of Griga, Zsuzsanna Griga, calls the lighthearted depiction of the Sun Gym Gang “ridiculous.” She tells the Miami Herald, “I don’t want the American public to be sympathetic to the killers.”
Lugo and another member of the Sun Gym Gang, Noel Doorbal (portrayed by Anthony Mackie) were eventually sentenced to death for the murders. Other gang members received varying sentences for their roles in the crimes. Johnson’s character in the film, Paul Doyle, is fictitious.
Paramount has declined to comment on the controversy.